The Ministry of Health is asking the public to remain vigilant of Dengue outbreaks in the region. Neighboring Central American countries including Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador have all issued advisories on the eruption of the disease. Since the outbreak in neighboring countries, it has so far caused 26 deaths and infected nearly 40,000 persons. And so as a precaution, authorities here in Belize are on high alert. Kim Bautista is Vector Control’s Chief of Operations in the Ministry of Health.
Kim Bautista – Chief of Operations, Vector Control, Ministry of Health:
In issuing advisories to the public such as this, we take into consideration several different factors in that, on a daily basis. There’s an influx of migrant workers and visitors coming in from areas where you do have outbreaks of Dengue in neighboring countries, and it’s an external threat to us. We give out these health warnings so that the public in general, travelers to these countries, and even persons here at home, can take the necessary precautions.
Fortunately, so far, the number of confirmed dengue cases has remained low in the country.
In Belize what we have been seeing is that, compared to previous years, the cases have been down. Recent statistics showed a little over a hundred clinical confirmed cases. Countrywide we’ve seen just over fifty lab-confirmed cases. We’re talking about cases coming from various public and private sector institutions that are reporting to us. The level of testing has increased. We’ve tested so far this year over six hundred persons, and we’re receiving back just about eight per-cent positivity rate. We’re in the rainy season and the figures are down, but when we look at the situation on a whole, the epidemiological trend over the past months throughout the region, then you can see the threat is real. It’s a imminent threat, and so at home we just need to make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
Even though the rainy season is upon us, which lends to an increase in Mosquito breeding, the decline in confirmed cases is part due to mosquito spraying countrywide. Nonetheless, Belize still remains at risk for dengue. Kim Bautista detailed the symptoms of the disease and why it is important for persons experiencing such symptoms to visit a health care center.
The primary symptoms are fever, headache, retro orbital pain (meaning pain behind the eyes), joint pain, and back pain. There’s also a skin rash as well. These will be the primary symptoms. With these Health Advisories people need to visit the health facilities as much as possible when they have these symptoms, because what you have with Dengue there are four serotypes , there are four viruses. With any given year there’s a combination of serotypes circulating in the region. What happens is that persons who contract Dengue the first time basically become immune to that serotype. But then if there is another serotype circulating, and you contract Dengue a second time, you’re at risk for Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, which is a severe episode of Dengue that could be life-threatening. These are the cases that normally would result in deaths.
While, the Ministry has launched a countrywide Dengue Prevention Plan, the assistance of the public in controlling the disease is critical.
With Dengue control, for there to be any sustainable grounds gain, you need the public’s involvement because persons need to ensure their yards and premises are free of water-holding containers which the mosquitoes breed in. So you might be doing your part, but what about your neighbors? The mosquito will not restrict itself to your yard. So we need to ensure that we are our brother’s keeper, and then the Ministry of Health is doing its part in terms of controlling the adult and the larval stage of the mosquito as well. I encourage the public to help each other in terms of ensuring that your yards are free of these water-holding containers.
Other preventative measures include: using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, ensuring that your home is properly screened and keeping your house windows open whenever spraying activities take place. In addition, the public is advised to hold off from taking medication that contains Aspirin, and drink lots of liquids.